Product Video Usability Guidelines and Best Practices

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The old adage “a picture is worth more than thousand words” is even more true with video: one second of video contains around 25 images, so with a video of one minute you’ll easily get over a thousand pictures. It’s a proven fact that images draw more attention than mere text, also you only have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression.

If you manage to make a good first impression and grab people’s attention it is likely that the user spends more time on your landing page or website. So it’s a fair assumption that video will improve the overall user experience and therefore lead to more conversions and sales. Videos transport more emotion, they allow us to “feel” a product or service, or they give a company personality and character.

But don’t just take my word for it. According to a survey consumers watch product videos over 60% of the time and it makes them more confident about their purchase decisions. And here comes a really crazy fact: shoppers who view video are 174% more likely to purchase than visitors who did not!

Reason enough to dig deeper into this topic, don’t you think? Here are some key product video usability guidelines for you!

How to avoid Cognitive Dissonance

Humans don’t like to regret things that they did. Especially when it comes to purchasing decisions. Say, we buy a totally overpriced television, which promises to deliver an even better screen resolution and brighter colors, but in reality it sucks. However, having spent a couple of thousand dollars makes us want to like it. We try to avoid “cognitive dissonance” with regards to our decisions. Here is a great article about Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance.

Now, the primary goal as an ecommerce website owner is to reduce not only post purchase but also pre-sale cognitive dissonance, meaning reducing the fear of regret. How can you achieve that? Of course … with video. Let us take a look at a couple of advantages web video can give you for your products:

1. Transparency

Product videos have the ability to show all the details of a product. A picture only gives a two dimensional view on an object. Videos allow you to show a product from various angles and also “how” it works or looks.

2. Trust

A product video gives your website more trust in consumers’ eyes. Of course, it needs to be a professional video otherwise it might even hurt you. Since videos feel more “real” than images your trust ratings will go up.

3. Shareability

If you manage to create a cool, funny or otherwise likable product video it becomes highly shareable through various social media channels. An incredibly successful example are the “product videos” of Blendtec with their “Will It Blend” campaign.

4. Authority

Product videos can give your company an aura of authority. One of the best examples are the product videos by the most successful German e-commerce websites for music equipment called Thomann. They show exactly how the equipment works, sounds and how it compares to other products in the category. Here is an example (German language).

5. Brand awareness

Product and web videos in general increase the awareness of your brand or website. You can incorporate your logo and have a pre or post roll that can convey your claim and corporate message. Also if your website contains web video Google might show a video thumbnail in the SERPs which leads to a higher CTR.

6. It’s not all about video

While you’ve certainly heard about the recent web video buzz there are more things to a successful ecommerce platform than product videos. But it is certainly one of the best tools than you can use to set yourself apart from your competition and increase conversions. You need to keep in mind basic principles of landing page design and usability, though.

Examples of Video Usability Guidelines in Practice

Theory is one thing. I think it provides great insights looking at some examples how successful brands and ecommerce website use product videos today. Of course, we don’t have statistics how well these particular videos perform. Yet we are shown the different possibilities that we have to experiment with where product videos are concerned.

1. The Home Depot

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The Home Depot has a great selection of videos than can be easily accessed via a link below the product image. After clicking on the play button you’ll get a popup that displays a product video. It clearly shows the features of the product and how it might look in your kitchen.

Good video usability guidelines that can be noted

  • Detailed video for nearly all products
  • Professionally produced videos
  • All videos are under one minute in length

Bad video usability guidelines

  • Play button not easily accessible
  • Video is very commercial
  • Video opens as a popup which can take time to load

The overall implementation and product video usability is fine. However, I would place the video button more prominently or use the video thumbnail as an image so that it displays the product at a glance but gives easy playback capability at the same time. I would clearly opt for a video with a presenter as this conveys more trust and reduces the commercial appearance.

2. SportsAuthority

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SportsAuthority also uses web product videos to illustrate product features. Not all products have videos but the best sellers come with an explainer video.

Good video usability guidelines that can be noted

  • Good visibility of the play button above the product image
  • Video opens nicely in a lightbox

Bad video usability guidelines

  • No direct sharing option within the video

3. Redcoon.de

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The German electronic online retailer redcoon.de has implemented web video a long time ago and focuses on explaining features rather than giving insights and how to’s.

Overall, the product page looks a little crowded but the play button is clearly visible. After clicking on the play button a video overlay appears. Unfortunately, they don’t embed a share button either.

4. Thomann

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Another German e-commerce store that we mentioned already in the beginning. Rather than showing the features of a product they do in-depth comparisons, tests and reviews of microphones, mixers, keyboards and much more. These videos are very important for Thomann‘s international brand awareness and credibility.

Good video usability guidelines that can be noted

  • How-to style and in-depth comparison
  • Overlay lets the user focus on the video content

Bad video usability guidelines

  • Video is quite hidden in the sidebar
  • Some video tend to be very long (>5 min)

4 Product Video Usability Guidelines

At this point you are likely to be asking …”what are the top product video usability guidelines that you recommend?”. Well, here are my top 4:

1. Easy Integration

You may want to think about integrating product videos early in the conversion funnel. Possibly on category pages or specific landing pages.

2. User Oriented

When creating a video, don’t think about selling the product. Think about what the user would want to see to make an educated decision without regret. Explain the product, show it, let the user feel it.

3. To Autostart or Not to Autostart …

Auto starting videos is a delicate topic which draws extreme opinions. Advocates of auto starting the playback of videos say it’s the holy grail, while others reject it completely. Personally I think that one crucial factor is the industry you are operating in and from where users browse your website. If your visitors browse your site at work then you should abstain from using auto play because this will result in a high bounce rate. When you auto start you can:

  • Time delay your video
  • Set a low output volume
  • Play your video only once

That will certainly avoid a great deal of user annoyance.

4. Cross Selling

Use your product videos to cross sell other products or services that go along well or that other people have bought. Be the customer’s advisor not a sales person. Also, make your videos easily shareable.

Final words

Web video is not going away. In fact, with more people having access to broadband internet it is likely to increase in future. Most notable of all, a Nielsen study of 2012 indicates that websites with international visitors will be able to reach a broader audience.

Understanding user behavior and optimizing your e-commerce store for product videos is going to be a major unique selling proposition in future. Make sure you don’t miss it!

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